Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pudding Woes

Kevin wasn't coming home after work. No Daddy at dinnertime, no hero to put the kids to bed. Just me and my four children, all alone against the elements of a weeknight. A friend suggested I get my kids to help me make mini-pizzas followed by that pudding/banana/Nilla wafer dessert. This would pass the time and hopefully make the evening fun.

I made a grocery list for our menu, and lucked out when another friend kept the older three kids while John and I headed to the store. Once home, I realized I had gotten everything except the pudding, which is kind of crucial to the dessert. I called or texted all six of my neighbors, hoping someone had a box of vanilla pudding on hand. Nalleys - no. Mayers - no. Earlys - no. Elisaldezes - no. Kings - no. Rickards - yes! This was great news because I really had no energy or desire to load up the van and go back to the grocery store.

I procured the pudding and mixed it with milk and THEN noticed that I had a smaller box than the recipe called for. But I'd already added the larger quantity of milk. Texted Derryck Rickards again: "Do you happen to have TWO boxes of pudding?" The reply: "Sorry, no." Called Kristi and asked if she would interrupt her own dinner prep and evening craziness to come hang out at my house for 15 minutes while I ran to the store without kids. She said yes.

I was in a rush. I grabbed the pudding and narrowly missed colliding with a guy in the baking aisle as I attempted to dart between him and his cart while he looked at something on the shelf opposite. He finished looking and turned to his cart, not knowing a crazy lady with three boxes of vanilla pudding would be zooming by. Mutual apologies.

Shrewdly, I bypassed all the long lines at the checkstands to use the self-serve. Scanned the first box of pudding and an annoying pop-up informed me that "the attendant has been summoned and will help you shortly". Out loud, I said, "Seriously?" and scooted to the next station. I'm not sure if the attendant ever appeared. I think the attendant is a ruse. The whole point of the self-serve is to eliminate humans, right? That's my impression.

At home, I ripped open the new package of pudding, but just before adding it to my earlier mixture, Kristi stopped me. She noticed that instead of instant pudding, I had bought the "cook" pudding. I was crestfallen. Despondent. Frustrated. Hopeless. Pitiable. Angry.

Since I'd purchased three boxes of pudding, I scrapped the original batch and cooked up a new one. Kids cut up the bananas and we layered them with Nilla wafers and pudding. Even though this is the easiest recipe in the world - so easy even snakes can make it (and they don't have arms!) - mine turned out terrible. The pudding never set properly and was runny. I left bananas exposed at the top, so they browned. Frankly, I'm surprised toxic fumes didn't come rising out of the dish and wipe out my family.

The day was done. We ate the runny pudding. We brushed our teeth and went to bed. Next time I make dessert, I'll stick to what I know - chocolate chip cookies. In fact, this might be a great time to bake up a batch for all of my wonderful friends - even those who don't keep vanilla pudding on hand. Because I am a COMPLETE loser in the kitchen, but I sure have good neighbors and friends.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Picture of the Week

Here we see the dashing tiled entry way of a house not far from mine. Know what's special about it? Some really cool people are moving in to the house that boasts this entry way. All the way from Bakersfield, California. And they picked this neighborhood voluntarily! That means they must think it sounds acceptable to live close to us! (I know that the irresistible lure was Mike Nalley's home-cooked Chateaubriand --- but for the record we are still awaiting an invitation to dine there.)

Just this week they found out that their offer was accepted and now I'm counting the days until we have some (more) fun friends just a few houses down.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mouse? Or Dinosaur. You Be The Judge.

Today, the girls got out the modeling clay. Bethanie made a pink bowl, lined it with paper, filled it with rocks, and placed it out back in the sun to bake.

Cayna made a mouse. Here she is with her work in progress:

While she worked, I noted the long legs on the mouse. The word "brontosaurus" came to mind. But I don't even think they call the brontosaurus a brontosaurus anymore. I think he's a brachiosaurus or apatosaurus or some such thing. I just kept my mouth shut as my sculptor daughter added the ears, whiskers, and tail. Just like I keep my mouth shut when she chooses her outfits, spells her words phonetically, "cleans" her room, styles her hair, and asserts her will-that-is-always-opposite-of-my-will in every area of a seven year-old life.

Here is the finished... mouse, I suppose:
Smiley thing, eh? And long-legged. Have you ever met a long-legged mouse? Ever met a mouse that peed in a litter box? Meowed? Wiped small villages out with its tail?

Whether I agree or not, the creator has declared this a mouse. So a mouse it is. In motherhood, I've learned, things aren't always as they appear.

Shortly after the mouse was presented to me, the girls went back to work upstairs and manufactured this, their boat:
It "sailed" out of Joe's room to music Cayna makes. Music which sounds like trumpeting and humming and a repeating drum line all wrapped into one. They had worked hard on their boat, and I was relieved to recognize it as, indeed, a boat. Take a close look and you will see the "driver" up front, the toilet in the very back (shield your eyes--someone is using it) and two little girls with all the time in the world to build boats and craft bowls and... mice.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

School Switch

We're making a big switch in our homeschooling. At least for Joe. As of today, we are re-registering him in public school - but he'll still be homeschooled. He will be a student at Nevada Virtual Academy, using K12 curriculum.

What motivated the switch: 1) I had pared down Joe's daily lessons, eliminating parts of his curriculum that were overly dry, in my opinion. He was left with less than two hours of schoolwork a day. He needed more work and more challenge and I couldn't pull that out of his current curriculum (or create it myself) without expending loads of energy I don't have.

2) My concerns about "compartmentalizing" faith, schoolwork, friend time, sports, and other activities - which drove me to choose a Catholic curriculum initially - were unfounded. As Kevin and I have talked about this, we realize that since we live out our faith and try to follow Jesus every day, there is no way that faith could be relegated to a separate compartment. Our faith permeates everything we do, and I am no longer concerned that it will be removed from other parts of our lives.

3) Community. We have none. Even the Catholic families who homeschool in our very same neighborhood do things so differently and have such varying life circumstances that we rarely get together. We are also part of a vibrant Catholic homeschool group, but, sadly, most of the families in the group are on the other side of town. We can enjoy occasional get-togethers, but I'm not seeing friendships grow between my children and theirs. There is too much distance and not enough time. Admittedly, I have hopes and expectations that we will develop some community through this "school" and it will help me feel less isolated.

With everything that I've recently learned about Classical education, Kevin initially pointed out that this seems a step away from my ideal. Yes, but it isn't any further than we already were. And thanks to the learning I've done, I've been able to implement new principles in our school day - principles which won't evaporate when we start this new school. This might be an on-ramp to eventually enrolling in a school like the Catholic Liberal Arts Academy - but let's see how an online school works a little closer to home first.

There is the worry (for a home-birthin', home-schoolin', home-cookin' kind of a gal) that I am selling out. I may be. Certainly it will be odd to have report cards and standardized tests become a part of our lives again. But there is hope in change, and this change comes with much prayer and the wisdom God has given me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mrs. Personality

If I could earn my Masters and PhD tomorrow, I'd do it in a heartbeat, and then I would use my illustrious degrees to travel around and give personality tests to people in corporations and organizations. They would all hate me, because I'd be interrupting their workday, but I would have so much fun!

If I didn't think it would cost me friendships, I'd go around all day administering personality tests to everyone I know. And then talk about it. Endlessly. I just don't get bored of it.

Which is why today I added my Myers-Briggs letters to my blog header. (ENFJ) Maybe people will read that and suddenly realize why they love me so much. Or why I drive them bonkers. Layla will simply realize I copied her.

If you are intrigued by the idea of a personality test, or a "type indicator" or a temperament analysis - you can find free Myers-Briggs mini-tests online. Or pay the $29.00 for the whole shebang. Or call me! I'll pose as the PhD I want to be and analyze you for FREE! (Yes, I realize this is how men and women end up in jail every day... so on second thought, I better not do any such pretending.)

I'll close with a quote from a saint which I could argue has something to do with personality:

"Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly.” - St. Francis de Sales

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Teri David Thoreau

I don't know what y'all were doing today mid-morning, but I was sitting in my van outside church while Joseph altar-served at a 40-Day Memorial Mass (a Filipino tradition). Yes, I might have run home to clean something or to Target to buy something, but I opted instead for some quiet alone time with my book and my iPhone.

I'm still reading Walden. I've been reading it for well over a month, maybe it's even two now. I don't hate it, but it certainly isn't a page turner. Today I thought that if Henry David Thoreau knew I'd read his book intermittently playing Words With Friends and checking facebook - he would probably puke. And I'll admit, some of his philosophizing is lost on me (when occasionally I realize I've read half a page whilst daydreaming, I rarely reread it), but since I reached a section on "Sounds" today I made a note of what I was hearing.

My van window was down. It was a beautiful day. Do you know that in Edmonton Alberta, they've been dealing with a blizzard and temperatures reaching 36 BELOW? Below freezing. How inconceivable is that? And there I was with the window down in January feeling the warmth of the sunshine enough to park so that it wouldn't beat down on my face. But back to what I was hearing. First I noticed the chirping of the birds. Maybe just one bird. My ear isn't trained to decipher how many birds, but I'm fairly sure it was a genuine bird. In some young tree in our parish parking lot. Next the whirring of a small-engine airplane overhead. Do you ever stop and listen whether the whirring is getting louder and faster and closer? As if you're about to make the evening news when it crashes near you in a cornfield? No? Me neither.

After the chirping and the whirring was the hum of the cars going by on the parkway. When that quieted, I could hear the buzz of the power lines. In my observation, the buzzing grew louder as the morning wore on and I had to deduce that people were awakening in their Saturday-morning houses and turning on their coffee makers and griddles, hence more power line activity.

Finally, there was the settling-ticking sound of an engine cooling in the parking space next to mine. It was a silver Lexus. With a rosary wrapped around the rear-view. While the Lexus cooled, its driver mourned - but I just sat there with my Thoreau and my facebook.

All this from just one hour of solitude. Imagine if, like Thoreau, I parked my booty on Walden Pond for a few seasons and tried to grow beans. My blog would become intolerable. That's all I'll say.

Except... look at that post time! (Below.)

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Resolution and a Challenge

Kevin signed me up for a free photography class at REI. I was very excited until the day of class came. Suddenly I had fears out of nowhere: What if no one else signed up and I'm all alone? What if it's only twenty-something single men? What if it's only forty-something moms?

I went. Me and my camera and the camera bag that makes me look like I know something about photography (which I don't - I owe it to my brother for telling Kevin and me exactly what to buy). I moseyed fake-confidently into the warehouse classroom and sat in my folding chair among about 25 other people of varying ages and genders. (Interestingly, there were only about seven women and it occurred to me what a female-centric life I lead. It was fun to be in a group of people discussing a topic removed from my usual daily life.)

Learning to use my camera and more about photography is one of my resolutions for this year. It ain't gonna come easy. Between aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and all the myriad of corresponding numbers and adjustments - I truly feel like I could study and practice and shoot five thousand photos a day and still not get very far before 2012.

I am kinda discouraged but I have two things keeping me going: 1) The profound wisdom from Mike Nalley that Kirsten shared with me recently: "Everything is hard until you learn how to do it." and 2) I know about myself that I shy away from things that are difficult. It is good and healthy and invigorating to tackle these difficult things!

Our instructor gave us his e-mail address and said he'd be happy to give us homework. As soon as I finish reading my owner's manual for my camera, I plan to e-mail him and see what kind of assignment he'll come up with.

Stay tuned for photos by Teri. Meanwhile, I wish you strength and success as you meet your own challenges this year.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Monday Night -vs- Thursday Night

On Monday nights, we have survived the start of the week. Energy levels are high. Every dish is clean and in its place. Toys are picked up. Laundry is done and everyone has a fresh pile of undies in their dresser drawers. Meals have been planned and I even had the foresight to thaw something for dinner.

By Thursday night, I'm not sure I'll make it to Saturday without just the "teeniest little bit of crack cocaine."* The dishes are in a two-foot-tall pile leaning up and out of the sink. A dirty diaper sits on the stairway, and Nerf darts are poking out of the window blinds. More than one member of the family has no clean pants. Dinner choices include frozen fish sticks or pasta and meatless sauce.

Granted, I've been sick this week. But regardless, I always prefer Monday nights to Thursdays when it comes to energy level. There's a reason more people order pizza on Friday than Monday. It's not just to celebrate the weekend. The gosh-honest truth is that in households like mine, there isn't one clean dish or desire to cook left.

*Just kidding! Don't send the police to my house. I got this from an SNL shampoo commercial parody starring Kelly Ripa.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Motherhood is often overwhelming enough without going and adding minor illness to the workday. I have a mild fever and cold symptoms, but my mood indicates something more along the lines of pancreatic cancer.

When the snot fills my head, it is as if I have regressed thirty or more years and I find myself moping and whining around the house wishing everyone would just leave me alone to lay on the couch. (They don't.) Responsibilities for young people and their meals and upbringing seems a burden too heavy to bear without downing ten to twelve handfuls of Peanut M&Ms in the afternoon.

I know there are mothers out there FAR more mature and well-adjusted than I - and I would like them to comment on this post with just a snippet of that well-adjustedness to share with me.

I feel sorry for myself. How can I be expected to feed and educate four children while simultaneously blowing my nose? It's too much!

Somehow, after a record three days of this (I am rarely sick at all - and never for more than a day!) I think I might pull through. The NyQuil that I know sits on my bathroom counter is waiting for me tonight. Beckoning like a lover with clear sinuses.

I'm forty, people. Will someone please tell me when maturity will kick in and I will be able to handle a mere head cold without all the melodrama and end-of-the-world feelings? I'll be waiting for your answer, but I will probably be snoring... and passed-out drunk on the NyQuil enjoying a few hours of respite before tomorrow comes. Good night.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Catalog in the Mail

So the Christmas eggnog sure tasted great.

At Thanksgiving it was the pumpkin ice cream.

In October it was the Halloween candy, primarily the fun-size candy bars.

Here it is January and I am back on Weight Watchers. As if someone is watching, I received a "fitness wear" catalog in the mail today. Aptly timed.

Instead of just standing around craving peanut M&Ms, which would be my usual late-afternoon practice, I decide to thumb through the catalog. Perhaps this is what skinny people do? Instead of eating all the time?

Mostly the whole 60 pages are filled with photos of really firm tushies in a variety of pants, capris, and shorts. If the M&M craving wasn't already averted, the photos of really firm tushies would do it.

Did this catalog miss its intended demographic when it came to my house? I'm a 40 year-old housewife with four kids and I clean my own toilets --- is this a catalog for me? Here is a sampling of my daily activities, on, say, a typical Wednesday, just like today: wake up groggy; shower, shave, and trim my fingernails; start laundry; greet kids; referee breakfast; homeschool; run to Target; make snacks when kids' friends come over; make dinner; go for a walk; blog; go to bed. And then here is a sampling of the daily activities seemingly enjoyed by the firm-tushy women in the catalog: yoga; running; more yoga; rock climbing; walking to the yoga studio with mat in hand; yoga on the beach; yoga in the garden; yoga on a slab of granite; riding scooter to yoga; biking; yachting; spending a great deal of time around Jeeps; hiking; kayaking; surfing; wheeling luggage up and down a pier (to embark on a yacht trip?); tightrope-walking in new French pedicure; playing beach volleyball.

I suppose they've done trials. I suppose they sent out a catalog with their skorts and hoodies and tanks being worn by softer-curved women holding preschoolers on their hips while scrambling eggs at the stove, but it didn't sell. I'm smart --- I know they make it look like the life we want so we'll buy their clothes thinking the yacht and the yoga beach session (sans kids) and the firm tushy will be included. But I'm not buying a thing! I'm just going to use their little publication to get my mind off the M&Ms. It would, after all, take a really bad day with the kids and a total disregard for our budget to buy the seashell hoodie pictured on page 28 for $79.00. For the love of Pete!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Future Running Partner?

Who am I kidding? If Joe takes up running, he'll leave me in his dust. But that's okay, I'll be able to say, "I knew him when..."

Last night, Joe and I did a 3.7-mile walk around our "block". I put block in quotes because not everyone around my neighborhood agrees what a block is. My primary detractors in my definition of block are: Kevin, the Nalleys, the Mayers, and now the Kings. But I stand by my definition and our block is 3.7 miles around.

I'm proud of Joe (and myself) for walking just over 5K in the cold. It took us an hour. It is noteworthy that he wore his Crocs the whole way.  Someone buy that kid some proper shoes!

Favorite Joe quotes:
"Mom, you look like C-3PO." (I was walking with my elbows bent.)
"Ah, the sweet smell of pizza!" - as we passed a pizza place

He never complained, and never slowed. At the end he said, "I could've run that!" Say no more!

Monday, January 3, 2011

15 Things I Enjoy More Than Potty Training

1) Beets

2) Barfing

3) Paying bills

4) Crowds

5) Talking to a guy at my front door trying to sell oil changes

6) Gridlock on the I-15

7) Public Restrooms

8) Credit card debt

9) Falling into a cactus

10) Body odor

11) Barking dogs at three a.m.

12) Fighting with my husband

13) Funerals

14) Men in tights

15) Paper cuts

Am I making my point? I really don't want to do this. Neither does John -- he keeps telling me. Yet, I know if I delay much longer I will be the laughingstock of the Successful Moms Club. They already tease me over there...

Look at him. The little schnickelfritz.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ready or Not...

... tomorrow is coming! First day back to school after two weeks off. And, really, if I'm honest, we've been on a "relaxed" schedule for about two months. I hope we can get back into our schoolwork without feeling like I got hit by a train at the end of the day.

A few things are helping me mentally prepare:
1) Prayer, and lots of it - my prayer and the prayer I've solicited from several friends.
2) Exercise - went for an easy run tonight with my four friends. Yes, we froze our gazooties off, but it was a good way to beat the Sunday-night-at-the-end-of-a-vacation blues.
3) Weights. As I did my arm weights upon returning from my run, I got out a little anxiety and agression. Not sure how that works, but it does.
4) I have a plan for fun when the schoolwork is done. Usually I struggle to come up with an activity we can do on schooldays, but thanks to Kristi and Katie - I've got a destination for tomorrow.
5) If I get too desperate in the midst of my day, I can turn to my iPhone. I now have 5,400 games of Words With Friends going - and I have to confess I like that little quasi-connection to people.

For a few minutes, snow fell in our neighborhood tonight. It was so pretty to look up and see the snowflakes coming down in the glow of the streetlight. I'm thankful my kids got to see it too.

Before I sleep tonight, I'm praying for all of you going back to regular routine tomorrow. May you find peace and joy this Monday!

Saturday, January 1, 2011


I can't relate to my friend Derryck's cynicism toward making resolutions or date-based goals.

I can't RESIST a date like 1/1/11 to try to conjure up something signficant. A first. A goal. A resolution. Whatever.

So here it is: I'm training for a marathon. December, 2011.

That oughtta keep me busy, huh?

Obviously, there is a lot more to this goal then a starting date - thanks to Layla for processing with me and being an inspiration. And to my sister-in-law - with whom I've had the "humans aren't meant to run 26 miles" conversation - we can do it!!!

Finally -- last night's festivities were magnificent. Friends, food, fun. I can't bring myself to post photos of other people and other people's children, but here's Kevin and me (thanks to photographer Michelle):
Happy New Year again - and come run with me!